City Strips Justin Herman’s Name from Plaza

The move symbolically distances the city from Herman's destructive urban renewal policies.

Justin Herman Plaza is officially a thing of the past.

The Recreation and Park Commission voted 4-2 Thursday to remove Herman’s name —symbolically moving away from racist policies he enacted — from the plaza across the Ferry Building at the Embarcadero.

Under the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency in the 1960s, Herman led projects to bulldoze homes and business that displaced about 4,000 residents. The “urban renewal” was concentrated in the Western Addition, then home to many Black and Japanese Americans, and was also felt in Bayview-Hunters Point.

The area with the Vaillancourt Fountain at the end of Market Street is now simply known as Embarcadero Plaza, which Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution for in September. The Rec and Park commission vote on the removal last month incorrectly counted one the vote of one member who was absent, requiring a re-do.

A vote from Commissioner Kat Anderson, who is running for District 2 Supervisor, switched to approve the move, leaving Commissioners Mark Buell — who was once Herman’s assistant —and Gloria Bonilla in opposition.

San Francisco isn’t the only city reassessing monuments and other forms of honoring those who took part in racism of the past. Nationally, the focus has been on Confederate leaders like General Robert E. Lee.

Embarcadero Plaza won’t keep its new name for long — local leaders will next decide who to name it after. In an online petition, some comments suggested renaming it after author Maya Angelou, local photographer David Johnson and comedian Paul Reubens. 

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